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Bettman anticipates 'spectacular' new building for Pens

| Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand Friday for Mellon Arena's final home opener, but couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the Penguins' new home.

Bettman toured the Consol Energy Center, which is set to open for the start of the next season, Friday afternoon. His review of the building was filled with gushing praise.

"The Consol Energy Center is going to be spectacular," Bettman said. "It was exciting to see."

Bettman is particularly impressed with the building's layout.

He said the concourses are large, the amenities are top notch and that the view of Pittsburgh's skyline from inside the arena is outstanding. Bettman compared the building favorably to many of the NHL's new, impressive facilities, including Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center.

"It's a state-of-the-art, first class building," Bettman said. "It is very well designed."

Bettman acknowledged that, other than the Chicken Fingers, he won't miss too much about Mellon Arena. He was, however, happy to be in Pittsburgh for opening night.

"It has been a very memorable building," he said.

Coyote ugly

Bettman addressed the situation in Phoenix, where the Coyotes are in grave danger of leaving town.

The situation in Phoenix, Bettman said, isn't dissimilar from what the Penguins endured a decade ago.

Bettman said the situation in Phoenix is even more dire than what the Penguins faced but believes the team can remain in Arizona.

"The situation isn't good," he said. "That doesn't mean it can't be fixed. It's going to take a lot of hard work."

Ratings up

Despite the dispute involving Direct TV, Comcast and the Versus Network, Bettman was thrilled to announce that ratings for the NHL's opening night were significant up.

Ratings for Thursday's game between Washington and Boston were up 12 percent on Versus and were up 150 percent on the CBC Network in Canada.

"The momentum from last season appears to be there," Bettman said.

Bettman wanted to make a deal so that games on opening night were televised.

"Direct TV didn't seem all that interested in reaching out to Comcast and Versus," Bettman said.

The commissioner was also pleased to note that all four games on opening were sold out.

Olympic concern

The NHL has not agreed to participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Prominent Russian stars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have already stated that they will play in the 2014 Olympics, even if the NHL would threaten punishment.

Bettman isn't presently interested in worrying about that topic.

"I understand the desire to play in the Olympics," Bettman said. "The good news is, it's not something we have to worry about for a while."

Keeping busy

Bettman traveled to Pittsburgh Friday after attending the ceremony in Colorado that honored former Avalanche great Joe Sakic, who recently announced his retirement.

"It was a really special ceremony," Bettman said.

No favoritism

Bettman recently attended a fanfest for the Washington Capitals and was bombarded by question from fans who believe he favors Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

"We don't care who wins," Bettman said. "We're just hoping for good hockey."

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